The crisp fall air chilled my skin just enough to make my cheeks rosy without numbing my fingers. I reached for the orange extension cord and tugged it toward me. The long snaking cord repeatedly caught in knots, thus building my anticipation for the moment towards which I’d been eagerly moving. The string of lights in my right hand was about to fuse with the extension cord in my left. Finally, they were close enough to meet.
As my heart soared and I let out a yelp, the world lit up around me. The red and blue lights weaving in and out of the Sukkah’s lattice walls twinkled in the subdued starlight.
The Sukkah was my project and my pride. As the Jewish Holidays Coordinator for Kosher Halal Co-op, it was my duty to orchestrate large meals for two prior holidays, as well as erect the harvest hut outside the co-op.
We, the 30 members of Kosher Halal Co-op, put up the Sukkah structure the day before. At lunchtime, the entire co-op noisily and happily barreled down the dark stairwells into the bowels of Talcott to reacquaint the Sukkah pieces with the sunlight they basked in for the annual eight days of celebration. We giggled, hauling wooden beams and partial walls into the leaf-ridden lawn on the west side of the co-op. As instructions and chuckles swirled around me, I stood humbled as my friends and I built the hut from the ground up.
This was the first time I had ever built a Sukkah from scratch and the first time I’d celebrated the holiday at Oberlin. Upon my entrance to the co-op last February, I was often anxious and nervous despite the welcoming arms of the experienced co-opers greeting me for each meal. But this year, things changed, or perhaps I did. Fall began. I grew into comfort at the place where I now spent many relaxing evenings and all-too-short afternoons.
The extremely small co-op introduced me to a community that I never expected. The jokes I grew to love, the habits and rules I forgot how to eat without, and the family I found, nurtured a warming and sparkling hearth, whose kind rays beamed onto my life at Oberlin and enriched its meaning beyond anything I could have anticipated.
The lights of the Sukkah also exceeded my expectations. A full belly and a fall scarf kept me warm as the lights around me glowed, showing off the work the co-op had done together the day before. Oberlin had never felt more like home.